Saluting the creatures on the lower rung of the food chain

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Cheryl Robertson is the author of Goggas, a collection of captivating creepy crawlies. Supplied/ Tuppy Robertson
Cheryl Robertson is the author of Goggas, a collection of captivating creepy crawlies. Supplied/ Tuppy Robertson

Love them or hate them, insects are essential for the planet as decomposers, soil aerators, sources of food, pest controllers and more.

A nonfiction paperback entitled Goggas: A collection of captivating creepy crawlies by Cheryl Robertson and illustrated by Greg Mandy, was published at the end of last year. The main aim of the book is to encourage children to look out for, care about and understand the vital roles that insects play.

The author writes about insects found all over the world, including some that live only in sub-Saharan Africa.

The book balances hard - sometimes shocking - facts with fun rhymes, gives the common names, Shona and Ndebele names (she was born in Zimbabwe so this was where she first met insects in their masses) and biological classifications of each creepy-crawly, accompanied by quirky illustrations Greg Mandy (her son) created when he was growing up.

He was one of those kids enthralled by insects so searched for, sometimes caught but always drew anything that crept and crawled. Robertson kept the drawings he created from the age of three until 15 and used them to illustrate this book.

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Greg Mandy is the illustrator of Goggas. Picture supplied by Tuppy Robertson.

Greg – now 30 – also created the cover. Entomologists and other wildlife professionals have verified all the facts. Leo Braak, who grew up in Kruger National Park and is now Professor and Medical Entomologist of the Malaria Consortium in Bangkok, Thailand, commented within the book.

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He writes, "A delightful and heart-warming introduction to our micro-denizen compatriots which so richly populate our planet and contribute to our well-being in so many ways. Fun to read!" Steve Edwards, professional guide, naturalist, owner of Musango Safari Camp in Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe reviewed the book upon publication.

He says, "Children's health and well-being is enhanced when they have direct experiences in nature, but when this is not readily accessible such as in our current virus-tainted climate, this fascinating book will inspire them."

"Goggas introduces some essential aspects of the world of insects, told in humorous, educational and scientific poetic verse."

"Africans are well aware of the importance of insects in their daily lives and Goggas now opens this window to the world's children and budding naturalists," said Edwards.

Conservationist Dixie Darch from Taunton, UK, said: "This is much more than a collection of poems about insects for children. It transports us to Africa where the creepy crawlies have serious attitude and wonderful names like goggas and dudus."

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Here is the frond and back cover of Goggas. Picture supplied by Tuppy Robertson

"The book never patronises and is seriously educational in terms of biological classification and entomology, but with a keen eye for those quirky facts that excite youngsters: did you know that the Romans paid taxes in honey rather than gold?"

"The entertaining insect poems do the same, focusing on the horridness that fascinate children…a dried worms for supper recipe and the insect source for poison arrows, not to mention dung beetles' favourite food."

"Essential knowledge for the budding naturalist, and for grown-ups who are curious about the insect world and other cultures. Illustrations are a delight," she adds.

Chris Jones, farmer, ecologist, owner of Woodland Valley Farm, restoration director of the Beaver Trust in Cornwall, UK and instigator of the Cornwall Beaver Project, was drawn to the book by the word 'Goggas', reminiscent of his time living in Africa in the 1970s-80s.

"This little book breathes new life into some well-known subjects and particularly addresses the all-important younger audience. Combining child art with hard facts as well as great humour is a refreshing approach," said Jones.

Its message resonates strongly with his experience of progressing from an organic farm to a herbal pasture-based livestock farm supporting a wide range of wildlife.

"Abundant and diverse invertebrate life is a really good indicator of ecosystem health. Not only do we have lots of insects here but lots of the things that eat insects, like horseshoe bats. Insects are our best friends so they should be nurtured."

Buy the book at Takealot and Amazon.

Submitted to Parent24 by Tuppy Robertson

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